The beat thumps as a group of dancers move in sync to the music, their expressions focused while their bodies tell a story. As they dance, the group members show deep connections with each other and occasionally stop to fist bump and compliment other dancers. The group, called I Got Sole, has a mission that goes much further than dance.
Jonathon “JT” Thomas, African and African diaspora studies senior, created I Got Sole at UT with five friends in 2012 to provide an outlet for people wanting to achieve their dreams. The group, which focuses on dance, produces videos of original choreography to popular songs. The dance videos are produced, edited and filmed by members of the group.
“The movement is geared specifically towards anybody trying to get out their dreams,” Thomas said. “Whatever they’re passionate for — performing arts, visual arts and anything that they are really driven by. It’s really trying to get people to dream again.”
I Got Sole’s first videos were components of a documentary series that sought to inspire people to join. The videos have since become choreography pieces to songs instead of being solely about the movement. The group holds public auditions for each of its videos.
Once formed, the group began to grow quickly and currently has more than 100 members. According to Thomas, the group’s symbol, a fist, represents overcoming struggles to succeed.
“A lot of people call it a dance company, but I like to think of it as a movement,” Thomas said. “It’s really just trying to inspire people to get creative again and to be in that imagination mindset.”
Psychology senior Afia Twumasi joined I Got Sole in February 2013 shortly after its creation. Twumasi recently starred in I Got Sole’s dance video to “Partition” by Beyonce.
“I guess coming to I Got Sole every Wednesday and Thursday [is] like [having] a family,” Twumasi said. “You talk with them or laugh with them, no matter what. If class was kind of stressful, you have a place to go dance and just release your stress. That’s what has been so important to me: to have this movement around.”
Damian Medrano, applied learning and development junior, joined I Got Sole in September. Medrano also said the group helps him to release stress.
“When the week’s hard, I just come here and throw it all out on the dance floor and just have fun,” Medrano said. “I forget everything that’s going on for those two hours. I love it so much.”
I Got Sole allows anyone to audition for its videos and attend its weekly sessions. Thomas said even people who think they can’t dance are welcome.
“You can always learn,” Thomas said. “I never send anyone away, especially if they are really willing and committed to learn. I think that everything is possible if you put your mind to it.”
Computer science freshman Kevin Avila, who recently joined the group, said I Got Sole has helped him grow socially as a first-year student.
“I love dance, and just [having been] able to find a group of people and friends that dance was great,” Avila said.
Thomas hopes the group will grow past the college campus and become a global movement. He said he wants I Got Sole to reach and inspire as many people as possible to follow their dreams.
“We want this movement to get as big as possible,” Thomas said. “We just want to show people what they are capable of doing.”